SIX companies have applied for petroleum exploration permits on the North Coast and more than half the Northern Rivers and New England area are subject of permit applications.
Trapuzzano, Tito, Metgasco, Macquarie Energy, Summerland Way Energy, Clarence Moreton Resources and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council have all applied to the NSW Government for the right to explore for petroleum products in the region.
By far the biggest application comes from the Aboriginal Land Council, which has applied for an exploration licence for an area covering an estimated 46,000 square kilometres around the Clarence.
Land council chief executive officer Geoff Scott said it was in the early stages of what he hoped would be a "seat at the table of the resources sector".
"At this stage, all we've done is submit an application to the government to be considered for a number of exploration permits," he said.
"That process may take up to a year, and we may ultimately have our applications refused.
"We hope, of course, that the NSW Government will look favourably on a respected Aboriginal organisation trying to find ways to build wealth for some of the State's most disadvantaged people."
He said the land council had applied specifically for petroleum exploration permits, and that included oil and gas.
The land council understood the concerns in the broader community about the impact of mining on the environment, but Aboriginal people had a long and proud history of protecting their land, culture and heritage.
"We believe that by resourcing our organisation better, our capacity to continue caring for country will be increased, not diminished," he said.
Mr Scott said a moratorium on the issuing of coal-seam gas licences also applied to the land council.
The council had not signed a joint venture partnership agreement.
"Our governing council has not even considered the matter in any detail," he said. "But we can confirm we are in commercial negotiations with a resource company that has the experience, the finances and the expertise to help us achieve our goals."
Mr Scott said the land council permit applications covered more than half the land mass of NSW.
"This includes a significant amount of land in and around Grafton," he said.
Mr Scott said Aboriginal people had received little benefit from activity in the mining sector and the land council wanted a "seat at the table".
"We have a proud history of prudent financial management and have not operated on taxpayer funds for more than a decade," he said. "But in order for us to meet the growing needs of our community and enable Aboriginal people to take their rightful place in Australian society, we must find ways to operate in the real economy.
"The resources sector is one of the areas we're interested in exploring.
"Our goal is to ensure that Aboriginal people - through a democratically elected organisation - finally get some equity from resources that all Australians own."